Your Fertility Center Will Tell You, Cannabis Can Lower Your Chances of Getting Pregnant
Everybody knows you shouldn’t use alcohol when you’re pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, but what about cannabis? The short answer is, if you are having fertility problems, or aren’t getting pregnant as fast as you think you should be, it would be a good idea for both partners to lay off the cannabis for a while. One of the questions asked during initial questioning at a fertility center is about drug and alcohol use, including marijuana. These questions are asked because these drugs aren’t favorable for conception. Most fertility clinics will tell you that if you’re having trouble conceiving, both intended parents should give up cannabis until pregnancy is achieved.
Since cannabis affects both the male and female reproductive systems, both intended parents should have the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, a chemical compound in cannabis responsible for a euphoric high) out of their systems before starting to work with a fertility clinic. Being fat soluble, THC can take up to three months to completely leave the system. If a couple is planning on starting to work with a fertility center, this is something to keep in mind since both intended parents will want the THC completely out of their systems before starting fertility treatments. The human reproductive system is a marvel and very delicately balanced, THC can throw that balance off just enough to make conception more difficult than it would normally be. This is especially true in people under 30 who usually don’t have fertility problems.
After puberty, men produce sperm constantly throughout their entire lives but it takes about 74 days for sperm to mature. If a man has problems with low sperm count while he is smoking cannabis regularly, it will be at least 74 days before he is going to see if there is any improvement in his sperm quality. Studies have shown that men who ingest cannabis regularly have lower sperm volume compared to a control group and the percentage of damaged sperm was higher than in the control group. Between the lower sperm volume and the poor quality of sperm that is there it’s no wonder achieving conception can be a problem. Once the THC is out of the system the body will go back to working normally. While it takes up to 3 months to rid the body of THC completely, once the man stops ingesting THC his new sperm start developing normally pretty quickly.
So, exactly how does cannabis lower sperm quality? The primary way cannabis harms fertility is by affecting both sperm count and sperm motility. Men have overall lower sperm counts if they use cannabis regularly and the sperm they do produce does not move to the egg properly. When men use cannabis, they expose their sperm to THC. The exposure throws off the sperms’ internal timing and they end up being ineffective by the time they reach the egg. This happens because the sperm become hyperactive too quickly, so they are too tired to penetrate the thick coating of the egg by the time they reach it. Sperm are supposed to start off slowly swimming, saving their strength until they’ve been delivered to the cervix and in the fallopian tube headed toward the egg, that’s when they are supposed to start swimming hard (hyperactivity). The premature hyperactivity is caused because THC interferes with the signals that tell sperm the right time to start swimming hard. That premature start means the little swimmers are worn out before they get to their target, the egg, and don’t have enough energy left to penetrate the egg’s shell. These sperm are burned out before they get to their destination so they can’t complete their mission.
The THC in cannabis also affects women, but not as severely. The use of cannabis has been linked to eggs containing chromosomal abnormalities or other issues that prevent them from being fertilized and implanting properly in the uterus. Embryos that have been exposed to cannabis can exhibit retarded development which can make miscarriages more likely early in the pregnancy. These miscarriages typically occur within the first few weeks of conception. Even if the egg is perfectly healthy, the THC in the woman’s body can still significantly decrease her chances of conception. This is because THC is present in the vagina, uterus and oviducts after being ingested. The sperm swimming around in her system are exposed to the THC and end up with the same motility issues they have if the male is the one using cannabis. Another issue is timing, the egg has a limited shelf life, if the fertilized egg isn’t in the uterus and ready to implant at the right time it won’t implant. THC in the system has been shown to slow the progress of the egg through the fallopian tube, so by the time it gets to the uterus it’s beyond the stage where it’s ready to implant and just passes out of the body.
The answer to the question asked at many fertility clinics around the country, whether cannabis can ruin your chances of getting pregnant, is yes. The THC in the cannabis can really do a number on sperm and can cause problems with eggs as well. The one good thing about this situation is that it can be reversed by getting all the THC out of the systems of both intended parents. This takes between 74 and 90 days so if you’re having trouble conceiving, and ingest cannabis, it’s a good idea to stop now.